We’re back. SUUSI 2012 has come and (sadly) gone. SUUSI, the Southeast Unitarian Universalist Summer Institute, is held in Radford, VA, the third week of July. It’s part land cruise, part hippie camp, and all vacation. I joke that my favorite part is the food — for a week I don’t have to cook or forage but just go to the cafeteria and eat. No children badger day after day for breakfast, lunch, and dinner. They just go eat. But the week is far more than that. It’s a chance to relax in the company of like-minded people (UUs and UU sympathizers), to see what Unitarian Universalism looks like beyond the walls of one’s own church, and to try new things.
This was our second SUUSI. Last year, we entered the registration lines with looks of shock and a small sense of panic. For three introverts, this was a lot of people. After the first day, we settled in (okay, it took my older son three days), and by the end of the week, we couldn’t wait to return. So this year we did. We entered far more confident and comfortable, ready to pick up where we’d left off the previous year.
Okay, I went with more intention than just that. I went ready to drop all the mental garbage I’d been unsuccessfully sorting through at home. I went to find clarity in areas of my life where there was none. I went to write and read in my spare time, while soaking up the wonders of the classes I’d selected.
Of course that didn’t all happen. I’d brought myself, you see, and just as there is no geographic cure for alcoholics, there is none for the sober befuddled and torn. I wrote nothing, aside from a few emails, and I read even less. Starting the week with a rough voice, I dropped my harmonizing class before it began, unable to sing. I picked up T’ai Chi, which I dropped after the first day. (I’d wanted to figure out if that would serve as a replacement for the karate I’d left last October. Nope. I’m just not that patient, it seems.) I did think and talk. And I relaxed, once again having an appetite and sleeping better than I had in six months.
But at the end, after 512 miles of road between that respite and home, I’d returned with all I’d gone with. I returned with me. Nothing was solved. No epiphanies were had. Within 12 hours of entering the front door, I’d yelled at my older for the same issues I’d yelled at him before the trip. (And my outburst left us both deflated, just as before.) I felt the same pull in my mind and heart I’d faced before my travels. The tasks I’d left remained. And the sense of peace I’d felt during my time away evaporated. It’s part post-SUUSI blues and part the reality of existence. There are no miracle cures to being painfully human. There are few lasting epiphanies. We are who we are, and while we can slowly evolve to be better people, we still take our essential nature along for our ride on the planet.
SUUSI nudges me to that better place. It’s not a magical week, but it is fortifying and encouraging. My younger son stretches his social muscles further during SUUSI than during any other part of the year — he feels that safe and secure for that week. My older son stretched as well, playing piano for an act in an evening performance (and getting invited next year to a larger role in the amazingly rich musical scene at SUUSI). And as for me? I did attend a Vinyasa Yoga class, complete with kirtan at the end, that left me wanting more. I left intent on finding a regular yoga class — one that offers the spiritual practice of yoga. Those two classes pushed me physically further in yoga than I’d gone before, while getting me out of the tight confines of my head, at least for a few hours.
All of that and more happened in a short seven days. And all of it makes us each a bit more than we were before. It pushes our personal evolution along, strengthening who we are. It also reminds us that we are not alone on the journey through life. That lightens the load of my own being significantly.
51 weeks until SUUSI.